My Adventures with Yeast: Crescent Rolls
I just adore those yummy, buttery rolls that pop out of the can, into the oven, then into my mouth in less than 15 minutes. Like, to an embarrassingly degree. I know that they aren’t healthy (have you looked at the ingredient label? what is sodium stearoyl lactylate?), but I just hadn’t found a good alternative that didn’t include yeast. So, I kept on feeding my precious family these delicious rolls, promising myself that I’d learn to use yeast “someday” and when I did, crescent rolls would be at the top of my list.
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, homemade crescent rolls!
So first the yeast thing. Why am I so afraid of yeast? I don’t know. Perhaps because it is in a way “alive”, or maybe dead and waiting to be activated (what does that even mean?). Or because it is so easy to accidentally kill. I typically don’t do well with heat and monitoring temperatures because I’m an experimenter when it comes to baking. Throwing yeast into the mix makes me feel like I’m in a chemistry lab and I have to do things exactly right or it will fail. Ugh, the pressure. No thank you!
But, 2014 is the year for overcoming fears. The worst thing that could happen is that it wouldn’t turn out right and I would just go back to my delicious canned friends, right?
I started out by buying yeast. There are different kinds to choose from, but I went ahead with the jar that I most often see in the stores, Fleishchmann’s Active Dry Yeast.
Before you use this yeast, you have to activate it. It’s pretty easy- you just mix together the desired amount of yeast (read the recipe) plus the warm water (between 100 and 115 degrees, which I measured with a good ‘ol basic thermometer that I use for my turkey once a year). Add a teaspoon of sugar and wait for a few minutes.
You all- I squealed with delight that it was actually foaming up!!!
I really did try to follow a recipe. But, I got confused as to which one I was using (I had several different recipes open in my tabs), so I just started improvising. See Do It Yourself Mama, the 36th Avenue, and Handle the Heat for my ideas. And to be honest, if I would have seen this recipe over at The Salty Pineapple before I made them, I totally would have just used that one.
3 1/8 tsp active dry yeast
1/3 cup warm water
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 cup sugar
dash or two of salt
1/2 cup butter, melted
3/4 cup milk
4-5 cups of flour (I used 2 cups unbleached flour and 2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour)
As I was activating the yeast, in a separate bowl I mixed the eggs, 1/2 cup sugar and salt together in a huge mixing bowl. I decided that I was not going to use a mixer at all with this recipe… trying to get into the “natural” mood. Then, I melted the 1/2 cup of butter on the stovetop in a saucepan. Right as the butter was boiling, I added the milk. I made sure the temperature was not above 110 degrees, and then added it to the egg/sugar/salt mixture. Next, I dumped in the almost overflowing yeast mixture. Then, cup by cup, I added the flour. I chose to use whole wheat flour for part of it because I wanted it to be healthier than the average crescent roll. But, I must admit that the resulting texture made it less crescent roll and more dinner roll. So, I’d recommend using the unbleached white flour for it all if you’re looking for the smoother taste. Mix, mix, mix, knead, knead, knead until the mixture is not sticky anymore.
At this point, I covered my bowl with cling wrap, put a towel over it, and placed it on top of my preheated to 400 degrees oven. It was a warmish place where the dough could double. I let it sit there for about an hour. I don’t know if it doubled, but it definitely got bigger.
So, I kneaded it a bit more, and then divided it into 3 smaller balls. I rolled out each ball into a circle, cut it like a pizza, rolled it up into the typical crescent roll shape and baked them for about 10-13 minutes.
This recipe made about 26 rolls…I was a bit worried at first- how were we going to eat all these before they went bad? Well, when times get tough, I can count on my family to pull through. We’ve almost made it through them all, and tonight my three-year-old’s “good thing” of the day was mommy’s crescent rolls (we’re on day 3 of eating them!), so I think that says something!
Because this worked out so well, I’m going to be continuing on in my yeast adventures. Each month I’ll be doing a new yeast recipe– I can’t guarantee that they will all work out, but we’re going to give it go!